Paul's back! After last week's "violent abuse," opponents organized a lynch mob that beat Paul nearly to death. But call Paul the "energizing evangelist," transforming deadly cruelty into life-giving zeal. Paul's past courage should inspire our commitment; Revelation's future "new heaven, new earth" should inspire our optimism. But Revelation's present assurance, "Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race," should challenge us to become "missionaries of mercy." Because Pope Francis declared that the Church's credibility is completely dependent on our showing unconditional mercy. Mercy, said Francis, makes the Church, the world, and everyone young again, reawakened to life's noblest virtues. Fittingly, in today's Gospel Jesus reinforces that theme: "This is how all will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
Each year this Fourth Sunday of Easter celebrates Jesus the Good Shepherd. Today’s Gospel seems especially timely, for as Christians worldwide suffer persecution like Paul and Barnabas, Jesus promises his sheep enduring, invincible safety: “They shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand.” But we who are free to live our faith peacefully sometimes take our membershipin Jesus’ flock for granted, wandering astray to seek our own pleasure and prosperity. The simple cross that Pope Francis always wears seems to show us how Jesus responds to that. Francis’s cross features an image of Jesus, who has sought and found a lostsheep, then joyfully set it on his shoulders to carry it gently home. May Good Shepherd Sunday inspire us, so often lost and found ourselves, to assist Jesus in seeking, finding, and gently carrying home our fellow precious lambs.